By Edward Jansen
Adelphi’s international community is home to over 600 international students from 64 countries. For many, being here on campus is their first experience in the United States and an obstacle to be overcome in the face of cultural adjustment. Add in the Covid pandemic and the challenges grew, but for Panthers interviewed here, they took it in stride.
Nina Tchavtchanidze is a junior and international student from the European country, Georgia, pursuing a bachelor’s in biochemistry. She said she has a powerful desire to work in cancer research and has used her time at Adelphi to further that aspiration.
“I have engaged Adelphi in ways to accelerate my career. I have worked three jobs here and taken up a number of internships in environmental and health fields, as well as through the Jaggar program,” she said. The Jaggar Community Fellows Program is a highly competitive initiative, open to all majors, intent on providing students with experience in the non-profit sector. “It set me on a great way to reach my goals in the future.”
Gail Drazin, a junior biology major and international student from Canada, has been fulfilling her own aspirations at Adelphi. “The plan was to be a prodigy in medical school by 21, but Covid stopped that from happening,” she said.
When asked about their time early in the pandemic, Tchavtchanidze and Drazin both related positive experiences.
Drazin said, “Being a dual citizen made that all much easier. I was able to travel back and forth from Canada relatively easily. I have friends who had to follow certain regulations for not being American citizens. Like having to drive into the states, but then being able to fly home.”
Tchavtchanidze, however, has been in the United States since before the Covid outbreak. Travel restrictions kept her from going home. She persevered through her predicament, transforming it into an opportunity for career advancement.
“Of course, I missed out on some things,” she said. “But Adelphi allowed me to continue my education. I took summer classes, and with work being hard to find, I decided to take up a job in health and wellness to provide aid during the pandemic.”
For senior international student Jasur Shukurov, the pandemic resulted in him being forced to stay in the United States.
“Since Covid hit suddenly, by the time I booked the tickets and was going back home, the borders got closed. Therefore, I had to stay and attend classes online within the US.”
Shukurov has not been home since the pandemic began. Being stuck in the United States was—for many international students—an unfortunate and unspoken reality. Despite the situation, however, Shukurov held onto his belief, relating that, “Adelphi was very helpful during that time and provided additional fundings, which helped a lot.”
Drazin said that when it came to choosing Adelphi, “I knew I was going to come here long before applying. I room off-campus in Queens and know the area fairly well. I’ve been to Adelphi with my family many times before.”
“In Montreal,” Drazin said, “we have CÉGEP.” CÉGEP is, in Canada, a mix of programs for students looking to go to college. In Quebec, you graduate in eleventh grade. Following that, I could’ve gone through CÉGEP, but that’s really unnecessary. Instead, I took a year off and then went straight to Adelphi. It really just separates the partiers from the serious students. If you want to go to college, then you will go to college.”
Tchavtchanidze, however, shares a bit of a different story. “Initially, I had wanted to go to school in Germany, but that didn’t work out. I knew immediately when thinking about school in America that I would choose something in New York, being that it has more Georgians than any other state. I heard about Adelphi, and being a good school in close proximity to the city, I decided to go with it.”
Reece Farrow, a first year from Great Britain, came to Adelphi after receiving a tennis scholarship.
“I wanted to pursue my tennis to the highest possible level and I believe that I have the best chance of doing that at Adelphi,” he said. “When it comes to academics, Adelphi’s neuroscience program seems like it has great potential, being that the psychology one is so strong.”
Adelphi is recognized as a destination for psychology students, especially for those seeking graduate degrees.
Drazin and Farrow said they haven’t struggled much at all with the cultural adjustment.
“Adjusting wasn’t really that hard,” said Drazin, who speaks both English and French, though said she hasn’t had to use the latter in a while. “The United States isn’t really at all that different from Canada, except for maybe politics.”
Farrow said, “The one thing that stands out is how optimistic you guys are.”
Shukurov faced a bit of a different situation. “In general, I had only a positive experience as an international student at Adelphi. I would say the first couple of semesters were a little tough since I had to adjust to the U.S. education system, finding friends and in general overcoming the cultural shock. But I've been in the states for four years now. I feel I am a lot more Americanized than my first year.”
When adjusting to American culture, Tchavtchanidze perhaps had the most challenges. “On official documentation, we are called ‘aliens,’” she said. “And that is exactly how I feel. Like an alien. College life, campus life—it is all unfamiliar to me.”
Tchavtchanidze added, “I believe it was worth coming here. It gave me a whole new level of experiences and stories. But Adelphi really wanted to make us feel welcomed. When they picked me up from the airport, my driver learned how to say `hello’ in Georgian, and I taught her a bit of conversation. We had an orientation specific to international students, which allowed us to talk and share our own stories. Even though I at first gravitated towards other international students, domestic students have been very welcoming. I’ve gotten the chance to really feel like a true Panther.”
International students are so often lumped into one category—they are seen purely as foreigners. In reality, however, they are all complex students facing different degrees of adjustment into the American lifestyle. We are our stories.
As Tchavtchanidze said, “International students will always find a way to make this school their own.”